Aspiring South Sudanese wrestlers to face off in New York on September 29 - INTERVIEW

Category: Diaspora
Published on Friday, 21 September 2012 16:22
Written by Akol Aguek Ngong, The New Sudan Vision(NSV),
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Cambridge, MA, US  - Two teams representing South Sudanese Diaspora communities of Midwest and East Coast will face off in a wrestling match in Syracuse, New York this month. On September 29, 2012, Yuot Mach Thon plans to take on Manyang Mabior Deng in a preparatory move to prove that he is worthy of taking on more experienced wrestlers or challengers.

This development comes on the heels of Mr. Yuot Mach’s announcement earlier this year that he will travel back to South Sudan to challenge Mr. Ajang Garang, one of the acclaimed champions and great wrestlers of his generation.

East Coast1


East Coast Team from right to left: Majier Riak Chol, Yuot Mach Thon, Thuom Aluong Mathiang, and Chol Majok Aguto.


In late April, Mr. Yuot Mach Thon (Angal-Jok) shocked the world by announcing his upcoming challenge to Mr. Ajang Garang at the end of 2012.

The announcement raised eyebrows and was undoubtedly debated across the globe with naysayers arguing to the fact that the guy was not serious but rather did this to launch his name into national and worldwide spotlight. But others raised genuine concerns about his fate should he make good on his plan to face Mr. Ajang Garang back home in South Sudan.

Wrestling/traditional dance is one of the most revered traditions among the Bor Dinka in South Sudan. Festivities around it have always stood as expression of competition, and identity, serving in most cases as unifying sports in traditional sense.

Those aspects of the culture have remained the resilient qualities for a society that went through Africa’s longest wars and now, with the emergence of peace, and independence, the young generation wants to hold on to those for the benefit of next generation. Over the past few months, the US based youths have been discussing this issue on several occasions, acknowledging that stakes could not be higher for both camps.

This week, both groups contacted Mr.Akol Aguek, a columnist for The New Sudan Vision, about sharing the news of the upcoming wrestling match in which Manyang Mabior Deng of Grand Island, Nebraska (Midwest) will put Syracuse, New York’s Yuot Mach Thon to task through wrestling contest. Mr. Akol Aguek did his due diligence by interviewing all the stakeholders.

Below is that interview in its entirety:                 

Interviewer (Akol): Thank you Mr. Aciek Maluk Deng and Mr. Manyang Mabior Deng for taking the time to talk to us about your upcoming wrestling match. If I may ask Aciek first, Mr. Aciek, why are you doing this and to whom is this endeavor dedicated?

Aciek Maluk Deng: Thanks Akol for taking the time to write about this event. We are doing this to preserve our culture. Our culture defines who we are and the only way to preserve it is by practicing all our cultural festivities whenever we can as Mony-Jang and as Jieng Bor to be precise so that the next generation finds our culture still intact. Where we lived outside our homeland for the past two decades, we did everything ranging from traditional dances to new Dinka songs composition. The only thing we haven’t done during these many years is wrestling match. And if God has inspired Yuot Mach Thon to think about going home to wrestle the known giant, Mr. Ajang Garang, we in the US, have the obligation to test first before he boards the plane en route to Juba for we do not need embarrassment. That is why I am organizing youths here to back up Manyang in his pursuit to stop Mr. Yuot Mach Thon from going home untested only to bring back embarrassment.

Interviewer (Akol): Looking at the line-up of the top two from both sides, it could easily come down to Kolnyang vs Anyidi. Why can’t you call it a wrestling contest between Anyidi and Kolnyang?

Aciek Maluk Deng: Akol, when we have Awang de Michigan every single year, why don’t we attribute it to a particular Payam? Actually, the Michigan leaders who came up with the idea could have easily limited it to their Payams but they thought about our community as a whole and now we have a cultural practice that brings our people together every year. We approached it the same way and made it Midwest against East Coast to give our people from Cueei e Thon to Cueei e Keer based in those particular regions of the United States the opportunity to participate in the wrestling contest because all of us want to take part in the preservation of our culture. We think limiting it to two Payams would be exclusionary and that is not how you build a cohesive community.

Interviewer (Akol): Point well taken. But Mr. Aciek, I guess, you probably know that I am from East Coast and the folks here are united from Vermont to Boston to up-state New York where you are heading. Do you have an organized youth to face this formidable force?

Aciek Maluk Deng: Akol, this is why this exercise is very important because it is bringing our people together. I have to concede that we did not have an organized youth before this but since our Midwest learned of Mr. Manyang’s courage to take on the biggest East Coast blunderer and risk-taker-in cheap, Mr. Yuot Mach Thon, our folks have come together and I have a line-up of up to 10 young men all of whom will win come September 29, 2012. Please, tell your East Coast folks that you are good enough as far as composing your new Dinka traditional songs could take you but wrestling is a risky venture you won’t forget. Before I forget Akol, I am second to Manyang in the line-up and you have to ask Mr. Anei Nhial Anei if he is willing to face me because it would be nice for two coaches to duke it out as well.

Interviewer (Akol). Yes, I am getting online with them in the next few minutes and I will bring Anei up to speed on your proposal. But let me hear from the challenger, Mr. Manyang Mabior Deng. Tell me, Mr. Manyang, why are you challenging Yuot Mach Thon?

Manyang Mabior Deng: First of all, Akol, I have to tell you that Yuot Mach Thon has made a huge mistake for even thinking about wrestling with Ajang Garang because he isn’t tested. When I heard the news, the first question I asked folks had to do with how many young men here in the US had Yuot defeated. And the answer I got was not a single wrestling match has ever taken place let alone the number of young men defeated by Mr. Yuot Mach Thon. It was after those conversations that I decided to take on Mr. Yuot. I have made a conscious decision to go to New York to wrestle Yuot down in the presence of their kids and women. Now if Mr. Yuot lucks out and wrestles me down and I know he won’t, he will convince his elders from Nyichak that he in fact did exercise wrestling in the US and has defeated one person by names Manyang Mabior Deng. This will make his quest of wrestling Ajang more credible to his handlers. But at this moment, his is just a wishful thinking that needs to be turned upside down and I will and your headline on September 29 will be “Yuot Mach Thon’s quest to wrestle Ajang is quashed by Manyang Mabior Deng.”

Interviewer (Akol): If I may ask you Mr. Manyang, tell our readers a little about yourself because a lot of questions will be raised along the lines of: has he ever wrestled? When did he leave home? Which clan is he hailing from in Bor?

Manyang Mabior Deng. First of all, Akol, I am from Pale’s Kuchdok sub-clan. Second, “hen ci rak” (meaning I am initiated into adulthood). I heard many of you who left home in the 1980’s weren’t. Akol interjected “I wasn’t, is that an issue?” Second, I have wrestled down many young men during my time in Bor. I left home in 1998 through Khartoum and ended up in Egypt after which I was resettled here in Nebraska in 2005. I am finishing my first year in college.

Interviewer (Akol): What happens in the event that you defeat Mr. Yuot Mach Thon? Do you take on Ajang Garang? What happens next?

Manyang Mabior Deng: I am not going to face Mr. Ajang Garang right away. I will clean up the US of any opponent, and then take on Canada and Australia after which I will go straight home to face Ajang or any new star that may have risen up at that time. You know, Akol, it does not make sense to go home when a lot of folks are vying to test you and I want to show Yuot the best way to do this if that is his lifetime endeavor.

Interviewer (Akol): How are you traveling to New York State? Are you flying or driving?

Manyang Mabior Deng: We will be driving in a convoy carrying young men, elders, women and kids because we want our people to cheer when those folks meet their ultimate defeats.

Interviewer (Akol): Manyang, Mr. Yuot Mach, is one of the best traditional song composers from the East Coast. Aren’t you concerned about his songs raining down on your head should you be defeated by him?

Manyang Mabior Deng: Akol, if his goal is to compose self-aggrandizing traditional songs elevating his victory, then he won’t compose any song for he will be defeated. Akol, if I want to compose songs about my wrestling might, I could easily do it here. I can find one of those folks that have almost drunk themselves to death, knock him down and then declare victory with songs. It is easily doable. That is not what I am doing here. I am planning to prevent Yuot from going home to bring us shame. Those folks back home will not spare us at all. They will compose dirty songs we have ever heard and if we want to risk that, then it is better to test Yuot or any other person that shares his views to be sure that they are the best we can send home if we really want to do it. I am putting myself forward to prevent such embarrassment from happening to us. Many folks down here cautioned me that he is a muscular guy who had been going to the gym and will overpower me. My answer to those folks and your readers is lifting human being isn’t the same as lifting pounds of heavy weight metals in a gym. Human being resists but metal as a lifeless object doesn’t resist and if Mr. Yuot believes I am a metal then he lives in a different planet – NOT Earth!


Midwest Team from right to left: Aciek Maluk Deng and Manyang Mabior Deng.



Interviewer (Akol): Thanks Aciek and Mabior for your time. Good luck with everything and see you here in the East Coast on September 29, 2012. So you know, anything you have said is recorded and it will go on records unedited for NSV worldwide readers and if any of you want to retract any statement, you have my number to reach out to me before this story goes to the editorial team for approval. It is now 2:30 pm and New York folks are anxiously waiting for me.

Aciek Maluk Deng and Manyang Mabior Deng (In unison): Thank you Akol.

Interviewer (Akol): Back to New York’s camp. Thank you Mr. Anei and Mr. Yuot for taking time to share your views with NSV worldwide readers. If I may ask Anei Nhial Anei first, tell me Anei, are you sure you want to do this? And by the way, the Midwest coach, Aciek Maluk Deng, has declared himself to take the second position after Manyang and he is challenging you to stand up to him as the East Coast coach. What is your take on it?

Anei Nhial Anei: First of all, Akol, there is nothing more important than our culture and we are doing this for the sake of our children and grandchildren. I have been saying this, Akol, for many years that I do not want my daughter to go to night club and neither do you want your son to go to night club as well. The alternatives to night club are our cultural festivities which include wrestling. Second, I told my brother Aciek Maluk Deng during our several conference calls as we put this event together to give up wrestling because this exercise is for young men and I do not think we need to come in the middle of it. Having said this, however, he is putting himself against Thuom Aluong Mathiang, the second man after Yuot and I think he is defeated on arrival.

Interviewer (Akol): Anei, doesn’t it sound like you are capitulating by not taking Aciek up on his challenge?

Anei Nhial Anei: No, I am saying he does not belong there as an elder and I think our role is to encourage the youth to enjoy their culture for this is not our time. Even back home, our age mates, even those that follow us like my brother Alier Nhial have retired from wrestling many years ago. I am saying I cannot displace my number two wrestler and it is up to him to risk being knocked down in the second spot. But let me add this for Midwest folks: I have committed money worth one cow to their youth if Manyang Mabior Deng defeats Yuot Mach Thon and take that to bank, Akol. And I am ready to put them up in a hotel if they need someplace to sleep on the eve of September 29, 2012.

Interviewer (Akol): Anything you want to add before I get to Yuot for Manyang had a lot to say that I want Yuot to comment on?

Anei Nhial Anei: Akol, please, give my apology to all people for this is a short notice. We did not expect the challenge from Midwest until the second week of this month. And we did not want to extend it to next summer because Manyang and Aciek would have declared us cowards. So, I am saying all people around the U.S. and around the world are welcome to Syracuse, New York on September 29, 2012 to watch this historic wrestling match.

Interviewer (Akol): Angal-Jok, are you concerned about being finished before you go home to accomplish your ultimate goal which is wrestling with Ajang Garang?

Yuot Mach Thon: Akol – awa (meaning my cousin), what is about to happen here in the US is a dream come true. Manyang Mabior Deng e ke chii piny bei (I can’t rephrase the exact quote in English but it implies Manyang will unquestionably lose the contest). On September 29, 2012, the world will know forever for this will be recorded who has fulfilled his promise.

Interviewer (Akol): Mr. Manyang cautions you to not think of him as a heavy weight metal in a gym for he is a human being that resists and metal doesn’t. How do you respond?

Yuot Mach Thon: Akol, just tell him that you can say a lot but wrestling is different. I am planning to go home to tackle Ajang and whoever comes in my way whether he is a man like Manyang or is a woman must be defeated and that is why September 29, 2012 is very important for those who want to come here and watch the historic moment.

Interviewer (Akol): Are you going to compose new songs in the wake of your victory?

Yuot Mach Thon: Akol, yes because that is part of the game. Well, frankly speaking, I haven’t thought about it and I am not thinking either way at this point. But it is always part of the game to go that route. How many times have we heard songs along those lines and they are considered jokes and not real in the schemes of things. I mean it isn’t bad to go that way but I haven’t made my decision either way at this point.

Interviewer (Akol): Any other comment?

Yuot Mach Thon: Akol – awa, I have coined up a term and it is called “YUIR CAMP.” What we are doing on September 29, 2012 must be a summer camp exercise that should bring us together every year for a wrestling match. I am so excited about it and my teammates: Thuom Aluong Mathiang (Lonh e Machot), Chol Majok Aguto (Ahoch-Magak), Majier Riak Chol, our coach, Anei Nhial Anei (Ahok e Liel) and all of our East Coast folks are all excited about this endeavor. We welcome all people from around the US and around the world to come to New York for this historic moment.

Interviewer (Akol): It is going to be a historic moment. I wish you the best of luck. But so you know, as I have told the other camp, this interview is being recorded and it will be published raw and unedited. Please, reach out to me as soon as possible if you want to retract any statement for you are going to live with that statement forever if the story hits the cyberspace. Once again, I thank you for your time. Bye now.

Anei Nhial Anei: Thank you Akol and come with maan e Deng for this historic moment.

Yuot Mach Thon: Thank you, Akol – awa.


Akol Aguek Ngong holds MBA from the University of Vermont. He writes opinion columns for The New Sudan Vision in addition to writing feature stories like this one about wrestling. Akol is currently a candidate for MPA at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. You can contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.